All day Wednesday, rank and file members of the Legislature awaited the release of “the big ugly” revenue budget bill which deals with Raise the Age, foundation aid for public education, a new 421A program, the millionaire’s tax and other outstanding controversial issues.
Though no official bill has been released to the public, it is troubling that some of my colleagues in the State Senate have begun to claim victory on Raise the Age. New Yorkers deserve to know the specifics of the legislation before any vote is taken.
Though the Newsday article "Broad agreement on ‘raise the age’ — but one small issue remains" (http://www.newsday.com/long-island/politics/spin-cycle/idc-s-klein-detai...) outlines aspects of the proposed deal, questions remain.
- How long will young people have to wait before their juvenile records are sealed?
- How many new offenses have been added that will lead our children into the adult criminal justice system?
- Will OCFS or DOCCs run the new $110 million juvenile detention facility that will be built as part of the Governor's Raise the Age proposal?
- Will New York State invest in restorative justice and alternative-to-incarceration programs that have been shown to make a difference in changing children's lives such as the Youthbuild programs, the Red Hook Community Justice Center and other model courts run by the Center for Court Innovation.
It is disappointing that Governor Cuomo, the Senate Republican Conference and the Independent Democratic Conference have not joined with the Senate Democratic Conference, Speaker Heastie and the Assembly Democrats and the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus members to support S4157/A4876 to Raise the Age right.
New York State cannot continue to bury its head in the sand and keep treating children as adults when they turn 16. The tragic case of Kalief Browder has shined the spotlight on the thousands of children held in adult prisons; and the devastating physical and psychological impact incarceration has on a young person’s development.
We need to accept that Raise the Age is a problem that New York State needs to reform. We need to reject half measures and adopt solutions that ensure that children are not held in Rikers Island for years, while awaiting trial, often for misdemeanor charges or because they could not afford to make bail.
We need to stop using the criminal justice system to address youth behavior. We need to change the way we view children in our society. We must acknowledge the disparities in how young people are treated. We need to STOP passing legislation that only serves to create new pathways into adult prisons. We need to reform the juvenile and criminal justice system and end mass incarceration.
Our children deserve more than watered down reform, we must continue the fight to Raise The Age Right.